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How Serious are we really as a country about RAPE

13 February 2013, 11:00

In a word “NOT”

If we were, we would not be having another campaign, another night vigil, another mass rally, another talk shop, another panel of experts discussing the deep routed and seated origins of rape,  another sudo-intelectual musing on concentration on the perpetrators versus the victimization of the victim.

Yes all of this is important, but to the person raped it means little, gives no solace to them or the family and by and large over the years has delivered absolutely no decrease in the epidemic called RAPE.  It seems to me that all we have done is being seen to do something, looking really busy at doing nothing and confusing the issue with action. We talk and talk, create policy, NGO’s and consultants. Again, no delivery.

How about that we, the people, demand that something is done. Not the drivel that is mentioned above, but something concrete. Targets if you will that are measured and if not achieved, people are fired and replaced by those that can get the job done.

So where do we start.  Well, we move away from the rhetoric, the socio economic, the cultural etc.  These are important but will take decades to change if ever. If you want to change, have the “airy fairy” but, tackle the enforcement side first as it will deliver tangible, visible benefits immediately. You can then move on to the other issues.

Rape and Rapists continue in society because they “CAN”. In other words, we the people allow it. Through our behavior, protection and most importantly through a policing and justice system that fails the victim at every turn, we allow it. Yes we are to blame.  If rape was such an epidemic, such a social issue, we would deal with it.

Let us look at what we can do short term. It has to be enforcement. So we have to start at the policing level and then onto the judicial system.

This starts with reporting and then forensics.  This is the foundation; without these two, the judiciary, the prosecutors fail  and ultimately the victims’ are failed. The victims bolt from the system and quite frankly balk at the idea of reporting anything as they are “raped” twice. We need to look at specialist sex crimes units that are skilled and staffed by the best the world has to offer.  (remember that this is an EPEDEMIC) Every province, based on the statistics, should have these units. They should report to a priority crime unit head in each province and be independent to current structures. This will bring back credibility that is lacking with the current process and officers.

This then needs to be backed up with the most crucial part, forensics.  We cannot have a situation where the hospital staff are allowed to gather the rape kit. They are ill trained or prepared for this. The investigation of the crime scene also needs to be undertaken in a far more detailed way that what it is currently. We also cannot allow a situation where the rape investigation takes years because of “forensic back-logs”. The forensics needs to be processed immediately. DNA made available across all of the units. Information shared. The quicker this is done, the quicker we can apprehend the rapist and the sooner the victim can get through to court the better. People want to shut out trauma. The longer we wait, statistically the less likelihood there will be of a positive outcome for the victim.

So now get to hear about costs. Let us assume that we hire the best forensic team in each province we can. Five forensic specialist at R1 000 000.00 per year. Each with two lab technicians at a cost of R500 000.00 per year. That gives us R10 000 000.00 per province per year. At nine provinces, R90 000 000.00 per year. Costly you say. If we look at the perspective that last year public works spent R69 000 000.00 on the upgrades of a couple of Ministers houses  (remember that this is an EPEDEMIC) then the cost per annum to have quality forensic teams in place is negligible. (We are spending R1.2billion on a deployment of troops to the Central African Republic). We can also include the costs associated with investigations that are botched because of forensics that are later not successfully prosecuted or in large numbers of cases do not even see the light of day. 

Any delay in this type of investigation is in itself criminal as it is what allows the epidemic to continue. If the perception is that you can get away with it, then that becomes the new reality. The way to stop that new reality is to make sure that the CANNOT get away with it.

Lastly the court system. This includes prosecutors. And again the example of Forensic Specialists comes to mind. If the prosecutor was a specialist in the field, understood this better than anyone else, then the  victim would e protected, the trial procedure would be swift, and delays would be kept to a minimum.  This, if you will, is the building. Of course you will need to back this up with  justice that is seen to be done, not just done. Here the issues of bail while on trial and appeal.  You would also need to look at special courts, again to labour the point, THIS IS AN EPEDEMIC .

Until such time I believe that we start to do these things, the rest is at best an academic exercise and we will sit back in Five years lamenting why this is still an epidemic.

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